Naruto Hits a New Low
Although Naruto games on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have improved over time, the reverse is true of the Wii games. While the early Clash of Ninja titles on the platform weren’t terrible, they definitely lacked that certain something when it came to battle system depth and originality. Still, after a handful of titles, I was hoping that the tide had turned in the Naruto franchise. Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles promises a new story and an immersive battle system, but all this title really gives you is a nearly-broken combat system, ugly visuals, and a forgettable story.
The game starts off with some promise, with a nicely animated opening sequence that shows all our favorite ninja heroes jumping around and acting goofy. However, as soon as the CG kicked in, I knew there was something wrong. The first thing you’ll notice about this title is the deplorable visual quality. I’m not usually one to judge a game too harshly if its visuals don’t meet the pinnacle of my expectations, but this game really sets a new standard when it comes to poor visuals. The first story cutscene involves Naruto and Kakashi talking about training in a forest. The blocky character models almost completely obscure their faces, and the animation is barely even passable. The only way I really knew what was going on was because of the voiceover, which effectively communicated what I was supposed to be seeing on-screen.
They say first impressions are everything, but I held out hope that, despite the terrible first animation, the visuals might get better and I could be wowed by the game’s new battle system. I was wrong on both counts. After sitting through several poorly strung together plot scenes, I was finally able to run around a very small portion of Konoha. Again, the visuals stopped me from really enjoying this because everything was poorly textured and the city that has been brought to life in books, TV, and other video games, suddenly became featureless and devoid of life. Another issue I had while running around was the camera, which was fixed most of the time, even when I would move out of frame. I understand that much of the time the camera was focused on where the action was supposed to be happening, but when enemies skate around the fringes of the screen, it can be hard to position yourself in a way where you can see yourself, the enemy, and have enough maneuverability within the frame to attack strategically.
And even though you might hope attacking would be the redeeming factor of this game, the combat is unfortunately simplistic. The game starts you off with a bare-bones standard attack that can be used in most situations, and then quickly introduces a programmable special attack system. This special attack system gets some points for being somewhat unique in the Naruto universe (though we’ve seen it put to much better uses in other games). However, the execution of this feature is where the combat system really falls flat. The four “slots” for your different power-up attacks are tied to the D-Pad (either on your Wii-Mote, Classic, or GameCube controller) which makes for some awkward gameplay. The controls themselves are slow, especially if you are using the Wii-Mote alone as it uses button combinations for simple commands, and having to switch gears and use the d-pad to use your Ninjutsu attacks just makes the combat feel clumsy.
If you were holding out hope that perhaps the story would be a redeeming factor here, you can quash that thought. While the story isn’t terribly offensive, it is basically a filler arc about a mud monster threat that Naruto will have to dispatch. The game does introduce some new characters, but they are largely forgettable and one-note. The best part of the game’s story is seeing familiar characters in semi-new situations. But because of the bland over-arching story and the poor quality of the visuals, even these enjoyable moments seem all the more fleeting.
I didn’t get any enjoyment from playing through the single-player mode, and unfortunately, this extends to the multiplayer mode as well. Many of the same issues that hamper the single-player mode limit the two-player mode as well, and the poor controls and visuals don’t really set the versus mode off on the right foot. Although there are some unlocakable characters and options, the poor execution really makes this mode as much of a chore to play through as the single player mode, and I can’t imagine spending more than a few minutes playing the multiplayer mode with a friend before the game’s persistent flaws got the better of me.
While the Naruto Ultimate Ninja series continues to develop and get better on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it looks like Naruto on the Wii is getting worse. I had high hopes for this title, as the new battle elements looked like they could have shaken off the past few underwhelming releases from the Naruto franchise for the Nintendo Wii. However, I could not have been more disappointed in this title. Nearly every facet of the game is broken, from the visuals to the gameplay. Even the story fails to impress! No matter whether you are a fan of the Naruto franchise or just want to check out a fighting game for the Wii, make sure you stay far away from this game. Far away.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.0 Graphics
Graphics are last-gen at best. Blocky character models, repetitive enemies, and a horrible camera system work together to make this one of the worst looking Wii titles I’ve ever seen. 2.1 Control
Control with the Wii-Mote alone is horrible, but the Classic/GameCube setup works well enough, even if the core combat system suffers from poor mechanics. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceover is nice, but the background music is horribly repetitive. 1.5 Play Value
The story mode is pointless and the two-player mode is bare-bones. There is almost nothing worthwhile to do in this game. 2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|